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This parable is one that I have found difficult to unravel
over the years. Maybe you have too.
This past week, I drew a lot of insights from an article
He points out that the two groups of virgins
are alike in almost every respect.
They are all invited to the wedding;
they are all carrying lamps; they all bring some oil.
They all fall asleep; and they all wake up at the same time.
And – here is the key detail – if the Bridegroom had come right away,
all these young women would have entered together into the wedding.
What stands out is that five of them
were equipped for the unexpected;
they were prepared to wait and wait and wait.
A surprise turn of events did not throw them off.
So, what made the difference for those who made it into the wedding –
that is, into the Kingdom, into salvation?
What enabled those five virgins to stay calm and collected,
despite being thrown a curve-ball?
They had that extra reservoir of oil;
that is, they were well rooted in the Lord.
Where does that come from?
The hard truth is that you and I are our habits, either good or bad.
If you face a crisis, what is your first instinct? Is it:
(a) To cry and hope someone else fixes it?
(b) To figure out your excuse, and who to blame?
(c) To go back to bed and pretend it’s not happening?
Or, how about:
(d) To pray?
(e) To look around for who needs help first? To run to the fire?
(f) Or, to seek counsel from the wisest people available?
(g) To draw from what you learned from the saints, or the Bible?
You and I first imitate our habits – good or bad – from others;
but we end up cultivating them ourselves, producing in our lives either
a well-tended garden of useful things, or an untamed patch of weeds.
If you don’t develop the habit of prayer ahead of time,
what makes you think you’ll have that extra oil when trouble hits?
What we want, of course, are good habits, or virtues:
the three supreme virtues are: Faith, Hope and Love.
There are many vices opposed to these, among them:
Self-pride, cynicism, doubt and despair, and selfishness.
We also refer to the “cardinal,” or hinge, virtues of
Courage, Temperance, Justice and Prudence;
and again, there are many contrary vices,
such as faint-heartedness, self-indulgence, wrath, greed and laziness.
This is a good time to address what’s on the minds of many of us:
the uncertain outcome of the presidential election.
Some are really worked up about it.
Let me just say this – and you may not like hearing this but it’s true:
the election is now out of our hands!
Did you reflect and pray and vote?
Did you try to be a good influence on others?
Then: well done, good and faithful servant!
You carried out your duty as a citizen and as a disciple.
You did your part; and now it is in God’s hands; not yours.
All you can do at this point is pray and wait and carry on.
Some people – and you know who you are –
carry the weight of it all, as if the outcome were all on you.
But God never made you responsible
for the decisions of 150 million people.
Each of the ten virgins was responsible for herself.
I just want to ask gently,
if the election, or something else, is really bothering you,
are you forgetting in whose hands this all rests? Not yours!
This is when we dig deep and cultivate the virtue of faith and of hope.
God’s expectations aren’t that mysterious or complicated.
Note: I did not say what God asks is always easy;
but I am saying, it’s not an obscure riddle.
Each day is a gift. The best, first thing to do each day
is to remember your Savior and offer your day to him,
whatever may come.
Greet him first each morning and last each night.
Get to confession regularly; you’ll find your reservoirs getting deeper.
Walk with him and talk with him as you carry out your daily tasks.
When day is done, do a look back, ask pardon and give thanks;
and then sleep the sleep of the well-prepared waiting for the Kingdom,
tomorrow, next week, next year, or whenever the Lord chooses.